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AFP
May 23, 2020

Cher’s joy as Pakistan agrees to free lonely elephant Kaavan

World

AFP
May 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Music icon Cher shared her delight after a Pakistani court ordered freedom for a lonely elephant, who had become the subject of a high-profile rights campaign backed by the US singer.

"We have just heard from Pakistan High Court Kaavan is free," the singer and animal rights campaigner tweeted Thursday in capital letters, adding a string of emojis and saying she felt "sick".

"This is one of the greatest moments of my life," she said.

Outrage over the treatment of Kaavan at the capital´s Islamabad Zoo went global several years ago with a petition garnering over 200,000 signatures after it emerged he was being chained up.

The Islamabad High Court ordered wildlife officials to consult with Sri Lanka, where the Asian elephant came from, to find him a "suitable sanctuary" within 30 days.

"The pain and suffering of Kaavan must come to an end by relocating him to an appropriate elephant sanctuary, in or outside the country", the court ordered, criticising the zoo for failing to meet the animal´s needs for the past three decades.

The court has also ordered dozens of other animals -- including brown bears, lions and birds -- to be relocated temporarily to while the zoo improves its standards. Zoo officials have in the past denied that the Kaavan was chained up and said that he was just in need of a new mate after his partner died in 2012.

But experts have told AFP previously that without a better habitat his future was bleak.

His behaviour -- including signs of distress such as bobbing his head repeatedly -- demonstrates "a kind of mental illness", Safwan Shahab Ahmad of the Pakistan Wildlife Foundation told AFP in 2016. Activists said he had insufficient shelter from Islamabad´s searing summer temperatures, which can rise to above 40 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Asian elephants can roam thousands of kilometres through deep tropical and subtropical forests, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

In contrast, Kaavan's 90 by 140 metre (100 by 150 yard) pen had almost no foliage, and only limited shade was provided. The Nonhuman Rights Project, a US animal rights group, which has been campaigning for Kaavan, applauded the "bold step". Arriving as a one-year-old in 1985 from Sri Lanka, Kaavan was temporarily held in chains in 2002 because zookeepers were concerned about increasingly violent tendencies, but he was freed later that year after an outcry.